Are You Involved in Landlord-Tenant Litigation?

A significant number of landlord-tenant disputes are resolved without making it to court. However, since disputes can range from minor to major, determining if you need legal representation early on might be in your best interest. If not, you might have to go through a time-consuming and lengthy litigation process.

Know Your Rights

Landlord-tenant laws vary from one American state to the next, as well as between different cites, so you need to find out about these based on where you live. The corresponding rules apply across California, unless overruled by local regulations.

Security Deposit

  • A landlord may ask for a maximum of two months’ rent for unfurnished dwellings, and three months’ rent if a unit is furnished.
  • California does not permit pet deposits.
  • A landlord can withhold deposit for unpaid rent, cleaning of the unit to get it in the shape it was in when rented out, carrying out repair work, and, if included in the agreement, for replacing or repairing furniture and other personal property.


  • A landlord is required to give a 60-day notice to terminate a periodic lease of 12 months or more if all occupants have lived there for over a year.
  • A landlord is required to give a 30-day notice to terminate a month-to-month periodic lease, and a tenant is required to give a 30-day notice as well.
  • A landlord is required to give a 30-day notice to terminate a week-to-week periodic lease, whereas a tenant is required to give a 7-day notice.

Most Common Landlord-Tenant Disputes

The most common types of landlord-tenant disputes surround these aspects.

  • Non-payment. This is typically when a renter skips on paying rent completely, or refuses to pay adjusted rates and/or money owed toward maintenance. From a landlord’s perspective, you might need to pay interest on security deposit depending on where you live.
  • Discrimination. Tenants can file complaints with the Department of Housing and Urban Development if the face discrimination based on race, religion, national status, color, gender, age, or any type of disability. In such case, you might benefit be asking a real estate litigation attorney if you qualify for compensatory damages.
  • Property damage. If landlords find damage of property after they are vacated, they may file disputes against tenants to recover dues incurred in repairs and replacements.
  • Evictions. Tenants have the legal right to defend evictions in court. An attorney can help determine if your landlord has not followed the required statutory procedures, in which case you might get a ruling in your favor. Landlords, on their part, may choose to initiate eviction proceedings if tenants refuse to vacate their properties or if they have otherwise unsolvable problems.

How Do Landlord-Tenant Disputes Play Out?

Irrespective of whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you should try to resolve the matter between yourselves first. If that does not happen, you might have to choose from one of these alternatives.

  • Arbitration. The process begins when both parties submit their dispute to arbitration. A neutral arbitrator helps arrive at a binding decision, unless you’ve opted for non-binding arbitration.
  • Mediation. Mediation is not as formal as arbitration, although it too uses a neutral mediator to arrive at a resolution.
  • Small claims court. If your dispute is of $5,000 or lesser in value, it might be heard in a small claims court. This is typically more cost-effective than filing a case in a county or a civil court.
  • Civil court. If your dispute exceeds $5,000 in value, you might have to file your case in a civil court. In this case, hiring a civil litigation attorney with experience in landlord-tenant disputes might work well for you.


No matter whether you are a landlord or a tenant who is involved in litigation with the other, know that falling back on the law can work in your favor, especially if you’re right. In case you’re unsure about where you stand legally, consider contacting a real estate attorney at the earliest.